Volume 443 Number 7111



News & Views

News and Views Feature

GeneticsJunk DNA as an evolutionary force p.521

Transposable elements were long dismissed as useless, but they are emerging as major players in evolution. Their interactions with the genome and the environment affect how genes are translated into physical traits.

doi: 10.1038/443521a


Genome-wide genetic analysis of polyploidy in yeast p.541

Polyploidy, increased sets of chromosomes, occurs during development, cellular stress, disease and evolution. Despite its prevalence, little is known about the physiological alterations that accompany polyploidy. We previously described ‘ploidy-specific lethality’, where a gene deletion that is not lethal in haploid or diploid budding yeast causes lethality in triploids or tetraploids. Here we report a genome-wide screen to identify ploidy-specific lethal functions. Only 39 out of 3,740 mutations screened exhibited ploidy-specific lethality. Almost all of these mutations affect genomic stability by impairing homologous recombination, sister chromatid cohesion, or mitotic spindle function. We uncovered defects in wild-type tetraploids predicted by the screen, and identified mechanisms by which tetraploidization affects genomic stability. We show that tetraploids have a high incidence of syntelic/monopolar kinetochore attachments to the spindle pole. We suggest that this defect can be explained by mismatches in the ability to scale the size of the spindle pole body, spindle and kinetochores. Thus, geometric constraints may have profound effects on genome stability; the phenomenon described here may be relevant in a variety of biological contexts, including disease states such as cancer.

doi: 10.1038/nature05178

AB5 subtilase cytotoxin inactivates the endoplasmic reticulum chaperone BiP p.548

AB5 toxins are produced by pathogenic bacteria and consist of enzymatic A subunits that corrupt essential eukaryotic cell functions, and pentameric B subunits that mediate uptake into the target cell. AB5 toxins include the Shiga, cholera and pertussis toxins and a recently discovered fourth family, subtilase cytotoxin, which is produced by certain Shiga toxigenic strains of Escherichia coli. Here we show that the extreme cytotoxicity of this toxin for eukaryotic cells is due to a specific single-site cleavage of the essential endoplasmic reticulum chaperone BiP/GRP78. The A subunit is a subtilase-like serine protease; structural studies revealed an unusually deep active-site cleft, which accounts for its exquisite substrate specificity. A single amino-acid substitution in the BiP target site prevented cleavage, and co-expression of this resistant protein protected transfected cells against the toxin. BiP is a master regulator of endoplasmic reticulum function, and its cleavage by subtilase cytotoxin represents a previously unknown trigger for cell death.

doi: 10.1038/nature05124